With the weather starting to turn cold and some of the season’s less impressive rookie shows already cancelled (goodbye, Made in Jersey and Animal Practice), the fall television season is now in full swing. The Medium checked out some of the most popular new shows, and we’re giving you our picks on which ones to catch up on—and which to avoid.
666 Park Avenue
666 Park Avenue is a riveting new ABC drama starring Terry O’Quinn (Lost), Vanessa Williams, Dave Annable (Brothers and Sisters), and Rachel Taylor (Transformers). It centres on a jobless and broke couple (Annable and Taylor) whose luck seems to change when they get a job managing an upscale New York apartment called the Drake. However, they soon find that the owner of the building, Gavin Doran (O’Quinn), interferes badly in the lives of all the tenants. As the season goes on, the audience will be intrigued to find out whether Gavin Doran is in fact the Devil, as the title would suggest. One thing is certain: he is evil.
As the pilot proceeds, the mystery surrounding Gavin Doran, his wife (Williams), and the Drake’s tenants intensifies, which will likely keep the audience coming back for more. The pilot is really enjoyable and it has the right proportions of mystery, suspense, and comedy. The plot is not hard to follow, either. The best scenes are those shared by O’Quinn and Williams, as they have an amazing chemistry and play their characters with a lot of depth. The spookiness and creepiness in the pilot will surely keep the fans guessing. This is one I advise everyone to watch.
The New Normal
The New Normal is the latest series from Glee creator Ryan Murphy, and it stars Justin Bartha (The Hangover) and Andrew Rannells (The Book of Mormon) as a gay couple looking to welcome a child into their lives. The show follows their journey, as well as that of Goldie (Georgia King), the woman who becomes the couple’s surrogate mother.
The New Normal calls to mind other current TV comedies. For example, Jane Lynch’s performance as Sue Sylvester on Glee seems to have served as an inspiration for Ellen Barkin’s caustic, intolerant grandmother. But the show has a style of its own and an effective satirical edge that sets it apart. Bartha and Rannells have great chemistry, and the relationship between their characters really serves as the emotional heart of the show. In other, less reliable hands, the show would likely not work nearly as well as it does.
No, it’s not a perfect show—certain jokes ring false or overly mean-spirited (even when they’re used to highlighting the idea that prejudice is a bad thing). But for the most part, The New Normal is a charming, feel-good comedy with many genuinely heartfelt moments. NBC recently picked the show up for a full season, so fans will have plenty of opportunities to see how the already compelling premise evolves.
Ben and Kate
A lighthearted, refreshing new TV series, Ben and Kate stars Nat Faxon and Dakota Johnson as two adult siblings whose personalities clash and create goofy, often awkward situations. Kate is the responsible one, though the pilot reveals through a flashback that an unplanned pregnancy during college left her as the single mother of Maddie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones of We Bought a Zoo). Ben, introduced as the older brother who never grew up, has a habit of showing up at her doorstep whenever things go south. When he shows up this time, he decides to move in with Kate in order to help with Maddie. Echo Kellum plays a guy with a very obvious crush on Kate, and Lucy Punch (Bad Teacher) plays a British waitress at the bar Kate works at who likes to offer advice.
Watching this show makes me feel like I am witnessing the birth of new comedy stars. Faxon and Johnson’s comedic timing, style, and acting prowess are what will keep viewers coming back. The brother-sister relationship they portray is endearing and relatable.
But even though the characters are likeable and funny, it’s evident that this formula will not work for long. There needs to be more character development and backstory for viewers to become hooked. It’s not perfect, but Ben and Kate is full of potential and manages to hold its own among its heavyweight competitors, such as New Girl and Raising Hope.
CBS offers audiences yet another hour-long crime procedural with Vegas. The hook for this one? It’s set in 1960s Las Vegas as gangsters and crime begin to shape the city into the one we know today. Dennis Quaid plays Ralph Lamb, a stoic farmer with a police background who, through a turn of events shown in the pilot, becomes the new sheriff of Las Vegas. Almost immediately, he finds a rival in Chicago mobster Vincent Savino (The Shield’s Michael Chiklis) when Savino arrives in town to start his own shady operation.
Vegas seems to be aiming for a Boardwalk Empire or Mad Men-esque style. But unfortunately, it comes up far short of those nuanced cable offerings. While there were some impressive set pieces in the pilot of Vegas, on the whole it had a distinctly low-rent feel compared to the lush sets and costumes of a show like Boardwalk Empire. The hackneyed dialogue struck many false notes, and most of it seemed shoehorned in solely for the purpose of exposition.
Admittedly, as far as entertainment value goes, you can do worse than watching Dennis Quaid swagger down a desert road wielding a shotgun. But although he exudes a collected coolness, the flat writing gives him very little to work with. Fans of “crime of the week” procedurals like CSI might enjoy Vegas, but if you’re looking for a satisfying character-driven drama, this is probably not your show.